Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Better Biscuit

Last week I was chatting with the director at my daughters' day care, KDA, about joining them for a local parade and the conversation worked it's way around to food (Doesn't it always?). Specifically about how they were making changes - healthy good ones - to the menu at the center. In particular though, she was struggling to find a healthy and whole grain biscuit that fit in the budget and that the kids would love the taste of. Well, come to think of it me too. I LOVE biscuits, but they pack a punch to the tune of 300+ calories and 15+ grams fat. I didn't actually know this until I started looking at recipes. Almost made me want to take back all those plates of biscuits & gravy I ate in college. The search was on for a whole wheat biscuit that tastes good. The problem with that is it's like a spinach smoothie. I've never tasted one I liked. I decided then to go for a middle of the road approach: find a recipe that still had a little of that good tasting but maybe not so good for you stuff - yep, butter.
I found a recipe in The America's Test Kitchen Healthy Family Cookbook for Whole Wheat Biscuits that seemed to strike a good balance by subbing light cream cheese for some of the butter. And I can't say I loved it. It lacked flavor and although they were more tender than other recipes, it still tasted slightly cardboard-like. Testing that on another's taste buds, I asked E to try it and she told me "Mom, this is something for you to like but not me." Wow, talk about blunt. She hardly gets straight to the point that way. Back to square one. Instead I flipped the page forward and saw Sweet Potato Biscuits. Intriguing. It had part whole wheat, part all purpose flour, sweet potato that is cooked and pureed, AND fewer calories and fat than the whole wheat biscuits on the previous page.
I whipped up a batch on Saturday before the parade, and served them for breakfast. They were a hit. H ate two! Without any jam or honey added! Several other kids tasted them at the parade later that day and loved them. We found our better biscuit. If only there were a tasty no calorie gravy........
SWEET POTATO BISCUITS Makes 14 to 16 biscuits

To chill the butter pieces, place on a plate and freeze until solid, about 10 to 15 minutes. A fresh sweet potato is preferred in this recipe (by the cookbook authors), but I substituted diced frozen sweet potatoes. The plus on that, is it's already peeled and cut. This is the kind I get: 

  • 1 (12‑ounce) sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2‑inch pieces, about 2 cups
  • 1 1/2 cups (71/2 ounces) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (23/4 ounces) whole-wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch ground allspice
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2‑inch pieces and chilled, plus 1 tablespoon, melted (for brushing)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk, chilled
1. Microwave the sweet potato in a covered bowl on high power, stirring occasionally, until tender, 5 to 7 minutes; set aside to cool.
2. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
3. Pulse the all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, baking soda, and allspice together in a food processor to combine, about 3 pulses. Scatter the 4 tablespoons chilled butter evenly over the top and continue to pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal, about 15 pulses.
4. Transfer the flour mixture to a large bowl and wipe out the food processor. Pulse the cooled sweet potato and buttermilk in the food processor until smooth, 10 to 15 pulses.
Smooth puree
5. Stir the sweet potato mixture into the flour mixture with a rubber spatula until the dough comes together. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter and knead until just smooth and no longer shaggy, 8 to 10 times. Pat the dough into a 9‑inch circle, about 3/4 inch thick.
Shaggy dough prior to kneading
I'm a nerd - I measured 
6. Using a floured 21/4‑inch biscuit cutter, stamp out 14 biscuits, gently patting the dough scraps back into a uniform 3/4‑inch piece as needed. Pat the small piece of remaining dough into 2 more biscuits with your hands. Arrange the biscuits, upside down, on the prepared baking sheet, spaced 1 inch apart.
Those perfectly round ones were done by sous chef H. I'm jealous.
7. Brush the tops of the biscuits with the 1 tablespoon melted butter and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes, rotating the baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Yummy goodness!
Per Biscuit: Cal 110; Fat 3.5g; Sat Fat 2.5g; Chol 10mg; Carb 18g; Protein 2g; Fiber 1g; Sodium 310mg

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